Talking Drums

The West African News Magazine


The Bird, The Hunter And The Tortoise

There is a tale told by elders in some parts of Ghana about a hunter, a singing bird and a tortoise. It goes like this: Early one morning, a joyful, happy bird started darting from branch to branch singing very loudly. After a while, a tortoise lying among the dead leaves on the ground urged the bird to please be quiet. "If you go on at this rate, you will get all of us into trouble," the tortoise pleaded with the bird. "At this time of the morning that hunter is always prowling in the forest, the hunter will see you and shoot and when he comes searching for your fallen body on the ground, he will find me here among the leaves, so please keep quiet."

The little bird wouldn't and went ahead in full throat. The hunter did hear the song, came along and shot the bird on the tree. When he went to find his prize the story goes that, in fact, he found the tortoise before he saw the dead bird. The tortoise was still trying to quieten the bird and was pleading that he did not want the attention that will come with the songs when the hunter put him in his hunting sack. End of tale.

Arguments can be made, of course, for the rights of birds to sing when they feel like it and the hunter can be condemned for aggression or interfering in the fundamental rights of the bird and the tortoise, and until the world changes very drastically out of what exists today, such arguments will remain just pointless arguments, and anyway, that is not the point of this particular tale.

Strict parallels might not be drawn in the Libya, United States and Ghana axis with the bird, hunter and tortoise in our story, but some similarities, certainly arise, even if the US might not appreciate being cast in the role of the hunter shooting an innocent and happy bird singing at dawn and it is even more difficult seeing Libya in the role of the harmless, joyous songbird. And there are many Ghanaians who would resent the image of Ghana as a passive, self-effacing and hiding tortoise, but it is impossible to dismiss the similarities.

In the long running war of nerves and words between the United States and Libya, the unstable and unpredictable nature of the Libyan leader has made it difficult to see Libya in the role of the poor third world country being intimidated by a mighty world power. Indeed, most of the time, Colonel Gaddafi and his followers have caused more damage to the world powers.

When terrorism ranks today as the number one problem facing much of the world and Col. Gadaffi feels able to praise terrorists and is able to give heroes welcomes to his gunmen when they arrive from their exploits in other countries, it is not difficult to understand the total antipathy between Libya and the US which is increasingly the target of most terrorists.

The White House attitude towards the regime in Ghana appears mostly to be influenced by the relationship between Flt-Lt. Rawlings and Col. Gaddafi. When the friendship between the two mercurial leaders blossoms then the temperatures in US-Ghana relationships cool and when the friendship cools, the US suddenly sees a lot of good happening in Accra. It is not unlikely therefore that the recent furore between Ghana and the US was really a matter of shadow boxing with the real fight between the US and Libya with Ghana serving as a convenient proxy for both the US and Libya. It is becoming increasingly obvious that one cannot be friend of both Libya and the United States at the same time and it would seem that Fit-Lt. Rawlings has finally decided that he would rather have Brother Gaddafi than Uncle Sam.

Whether Flt-Lt. Rawlings has got the people of Ghana behind him in the choice he has made is doubtful, especially since the long promised, often postponed and finally traumatic visit of the Libyan leader to Ghana last month. As one Ghanaian newspaper put it, one good thing emerged from the visit it has made Ghanaians appreciate their own soldiers and security people - they are not, after all, the brutal and uncouth people Ghanaians had been saying they were, they had seen real brutal and repressive people at work in the persons of the visiting Libyan soldier.

But for good or for ill, for the moment at least, Ghana appears to have chosen to stay under the Libyan tree and would take any fall out from a Libyan-US confrontation. Not surprisingly therefore that the confrontation should be watched with much apprehension in Accra for the indi- cations are that if there should be some shooting (from whichever side) Ghana will be caught in the crossfire. There must have been a lot of relief, therefore, when President Reagan opted for economic sanctions rather than the military option that he appeared to be favouring. Our relief comes mainly from the fact that by taking this decision President Reagan seems to have finally been won over to the sanctions argument. We believe him when he says he has incontrovertible evidence that Libya harbours terrorists and trains them; after all. he possesses all the technological equipment to find such evidence; we accept his judgement that no right-thinking person should deign to talk to somebody who applauds the murder of 11-year-old girls. And we support him when he imposes sanctions and calls on the world to treat Libya as a pariah.

But President Reagan should not stop there. For a long time, he proclaimed himself unconvinced by sanctions arguments when it was advocated as a way of solving the South African Problem and he only imposed cosmetic sanctions last year when he saw an historic congressional defeat staring him in the face. Obviously, he has now been converted to the sanctions gospel. On South Africa. he already needs no convincing about the evil nature of apartheid - he himself has always proclaimed it, the difficulty was only that he was not persuaded that sanctions were any good either as a punishment or as a means of dismantling an evil regime. Now that he is calling on all his allies to join him to impose sanctions it should not be difficult to extend it to South Africa.

Doubtless, the traditional allies are not going to easily follow the Reagan line, not because they approve of Col. Gadaffi's ways, but because they value their trade balances much more than all the indignant condemnation of terrorism.

President Reagan can be sure, however, that if he will extend his newly found belief in sanctions to South Africa, he will find many new friends, even among those currently parading as Gaddafi's friends.

Rawlings and Gaddafi on cover of Talking Drums magazine, 1986-01-13 - Ghana stands by Libya in US dispute - Doe pledges reconciliation